Monday, 23 April 2012

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times... and then it was the BEST of Times

I had a lot of feelings today. Rollercoaster. Wow.

This morning, Elizabeth's friend Amy came over to play. There really is nothing better than two little girls playing happily together - dressing up, feeding dollies, having tea parties, reading books together. It's just plain adorable. Amy has a love of Elizabeth's shoes & coats, and every Monday morning when we take care of her, she invariably wears E's shoes or coat when we leave for our playgroup. This morning, she needed to wear Elizabeth's new silver shoes that Grandma Susan gave Elizabeth for her birthday. Elizabeth is either a really good sharer (aka oblivious) or a really, really bad sharer ("That's MINE!!"). This morning: good sharer! So off we went to our playgroup in Amy's double pram, all dressed up and walking in the sunshine.

And we had a great time at the community center. Amy dressed up, Elizabeth dressed up, everyone squished into the boat and they rowed it, there was a white board and they all had to colour at the same time -- in other words, it was great for me, because I didn't have to do much 'parenting'. I had a cup of tea and chatted with the other Mums. Ideal.
 Amy's Mum, Helen, picked her up from the playgroup, so Eliz and I set off for home in our own stroller, which Helen had put in the trunk of her car. Since we had walked there in Amy's (well, really Helen's) big double stroller, I had to transfer all of my junk out of that basket into my own basket. Including Elizabeth's silver shoes that we managed to get off of Amy's feet. We had a nice walk home with another pal, Kate, and then Elizabeth had a monster lunch and went for a nap.

What a delightful morning!!

When she woke up, I had just finished all the prep for dinner (scalloped potatoes, roasted vegetables and sausages - mmmmm) and packed the diaper bag to jet off to the library. Truth: I am totally sucked into the Game of Thrones series, and when I pick up book x, I put book x+1 on hold then and there. That way the next book is waiting for me as soon as I finish whichever one I'm on. Addicted much? Elizabeth said she wanted to wear her silver shoes - no problem, they are right there in the bask--- what the what??? Cue Georgina Meltdown.

Immediate thought process: "There is only ONE shoe??? No, this can't be right, I know  I put both in the basket. Maybe it's here, under the blanket - nope. Maybe it's under the rain cover? No. (Ahem, the rain cover is clear plastic...) Maybe Elizabeth took it out and was playing with it. Maybe she put it in my high heel - nope. Maybe it's in Matthew's running shoe - nope. (Repeat with each shoe that we own - ie a lot of shoes). Oh SHOOT!!! Maybe it's in the living room..." I went to look in the living room, and it was like the toy box had thrown up all over the floor. I started randomly picking items up - like I wouldn't have seen a silver shoe poking out from underneath Buzz Lightyear?? And then, obviously, it began to rain.

I went from a very content woman to a completely distraught basketcase in 0.2 seconds, and it was all over a child's shoe. I managed to convince Elizabeth to wear her boots, and got her on the bike seat. This whole time she had been wandering behind me, eating crackers and saying, "Shoooooo-ooo, where are yoooouuuu???" Then the whole time we were on the bike, we had this conversation:
Eliz: "Mummy, what you doing?"
Me: "Cycling to the library."
Eliz: "No liberry. Playground?"
Me: "First library, then we're going to look for your shoe, and then playground."
Eliz: "Shoo-ooo, where are yoouuu?"
Me: "Yes, your shoe is lost. I need to find it."
. . .
Eliz: "Mummy, what you doing?"
etc etc etc

So we cycled back the way we had walked that afternoon, and I couldn't see the shoe anywhere! I was so upset - I became completely irrational. I told Matthew about it, and seriously contemplated making him come home from work early. I started hating living in England, because obviously someone had stolen the shoe, and seriously, who steals ONE shoe??? I started looking at all British people like they were both thieves and idiots. I started mentally designing the "Lost: One Shoe" poster that I would then plaster all over the neighbourhood. I considered offering a reward. I started composing the email I would send to all the women I know in the neighbourhood, asking them to keep an eye out.

Then I did what all other irrational people do: I asked the internet and tried to fix this problem by throwing money at it. First I called the shop we bought them from: they were,of course, sold out. I called the other branch of the store (in another city) and they were sold out too. The shoe is a Primigi brand, and the box said its name is Yvette. I defy any of you to find a silver Yvette Primigi shoe on the internet. And you should also try to do it split-screened with Peter Pan on the other half of the screen, because Elizabeth is now in love with Tinkerbell. Yeah, I'm pretty sure we have the only pair of silver Yvette Primigi shoes on the planet.  I started feeling immense guilt: Elizabeth has had these shoes for less than a month, and worn them only a handful of times since she only just grew into them, and I lost one?? I couldn't even blame the toddler - this was all my fault. The shoe became a symbol of all the other things I have ever done wrong as a Mum and a Person, and I was convinced I was never going to amount to anything, since, honestly, who can be successful if they can't even keep a pair of shoes together??

 Seriously, what is wrong with me??

Matthew came home, talked me down, and then after dinner, I walked back to the community centre again, by myself. He and Elizabeth were going to come with me, but then we passed a playground, and she was no longer interested in the walk, and doubly uninterested in the stroller. The whole walk I was thinking, "It's going to be okay. It was probably picked up by another Mum. You're a Mum now. Where would you put a shoe that you found on the sidewalk?? Come on, think like a Mum." And then I was like a bobbing-chicken-head: down at the ground, up to the fence, down to the gutter, up to the bus bench, down to the ground, beside the rubbish bins...

 British houses don't often have fences - instead they have these brick demi-walls. At one house, I actually stopped at their wall, and thought, "What if another Mum put it on the wall, and then the wind blew it down??" So I looked on the other side of the wall. . . no shoe, but I did find a stuffed rabbit-blankie thing that had fallen behind the rose bush on the inside of the wall!!! I put him back up on top, patted myself on the back and carried on. I thought that was going to be the silver lining to this situation: I wouldn't find Elizabeth's shoe, but tomorrow morning, some small child would find their dirty, wet, rabbit-blankie and feel complete again. Even if I lost, some little kid would win.

 I was just about losing hope and prepared to cry over losing a shoe, when gasp!!! There it was!! Threaded through the bars of the school fence!!! I swear, I ran across the street, grabbed it, and yelled, "Yessssssssss!!!" It was, quite honestly, one of the best moments ever. Such relief!! Such a flood of happiness!! Oh, endorphins!! Oh, hormones!! I found it! I can do anything!! I am a superhero!! I found a lost shoe!!!!

Even though I walked home pretty quickly in the rain and wind, inside I felt like this:

No more missing shoe-gaps!! All shoes present and accounted for! Life is good!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

It's Science.

Get ready for some serious math here, friends. 

I think I look my age. 30. (PS I hate that thing where your shirt gets caught on your belt.)

Regular Outfit + Glasses = Age Neutral + Tired

Regular Outfit + (Cardigan x No Warmth or Comfort) = Age Neutral

Regular Outfit + (Cardigan x Warmth or Comfort) + Glasses = Age Neutral + Tired

Regular Outfit + (Cardigan x Warmth and Comfort) + Glasses = Age + 8 years
(There is no point having an equation without glasses - if you're wearing clothes for warmth and comfort, you might as well just rock the glasses too.)
Therefore, in this outfit, BOOM, I'm 38.

I wish this were different folks, but you can't fight math.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Best Darned Birthday

I really thought about calling this the "Best Darned Two-tin Birthday" but it was a little bit too much.

Elizabeth turned two (!) on April 15. TWO. Judging from her behaviour and mannerisms, she's been two for about 6 months now, but according to the calendar, it only just happened. I think the same thing will happen when she turns fourteen, but has been "fourteen" for 2 and a half years.

We started the day off right: regular old cereal and bananas while opening all her birthday cards. Seriously, the best part about living away from all your family is all the MAIL!! I had to go to the post office depot twice to pick up packages - and one was kind of hard to pick up, because it was mailed to Elizabeth Hawkeye, and my ID clearly says Georgina. Luckily, Elizabeth was crashing around the depot as I explained this to the Postie, and there was a huge lineup, so he let me take it. Sometimes toddlers are helpful like that. Then I wrote a love letter to my postman - yes, he's a postman, not a postwoman.

And thank goodness I did, because the package he left that day was this one:

 Oh yes, six bags of Goldfish crackers from The internet is amazing.

Back to the birthday: cereal, bananas, cards. Then presents from Mum and Dad: a Charlie & Lola stick-on-felt set, a yellow race car toy, a Tiger Who Came To Tea tea set, and a set of talking Buzz Lightyear and Woody toys. The Buzz and Woody were purchased with assistance from multiple people - we can't take all the credit - and were an instant hit.

We had a birthday party for Elizabeth at her favourite playground, with her favourite pals, and her favourite foods (grapes, strawberries, Goldfishes, Muller yogurts, and chocolate cupcakes). The presents were opened 'organically' - as in, whenever I noticed her playing with the child who brought the gift, I brought the gift to be opened. It worked out pretty well, compared to her 1st birthday party, when she was Queen Overwhelma and ended up being Little Miss Puke-A-Lot.
Elizabeth's bestie Cal gave her a hat. Correction: Cal's Mum Kate knitted a hat for Elizabeth. The hat was worn by several toddling partygoers for the remainder of the party. But mostly by Elizabeth, the little accessorizer that she is.
 There was an awful lot of playing:
 And, of course, a lot of running-jumping-chasing-playing with Cal. I felt they needed their own collage, because they are just super cute together. And also: a little boy in a dress shirt and waistcoat requires multiple shots. Side note: my Mum sent this dress for Elizabeth, and the morning it arrived, I tried it on her immediately. She said, "ooooh Mummy, Issabet Cinderella." And then cried when she couldn't wear it that day because I wanted to save it for her party. Side note part II: chocolate cupcakes + white party dress = facepalm.
  Matthew and I made about a billion (well, 30) chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing, and a pink "2" on each one. M's engineering/tetris skills were put to the test to get them to the park balanced on the stroller basket without any of them getting chuddy. "Happy Birthday" was sung twice - I'm surprised it was only twice - so she could blow out the candles again. The cupcakes were a hit with every child - thank you for your secret recipe, Betty Crocker.
All in all, it was a total success, as far as second birthday parties go. There were two moments of parenting awesomeness that require noting. And luckily, because we are awesome at getting bad pictures, both were well photographed.

Here is Elizabeth going across a raised separated-platform-bridge-thing:
 And here she is falling off:
 And here she is crying afterwards, my poor girl!

Towards the end of the party (ie 12:30 pm - getting pretty close to lunch-and-nap time) Elizabeth and Cal were playing Monkey on the rope bridge:
 And this is her right before she fell off, and hit her head on the platform beside her, signalling the end of the party.
Everyone's been to a party where it all ended because a girl started crying. I guess Eliz is just starting young.

I feel like I need a concluding sentence here ... In conclusion, best birthday party ever.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Elizabeth is a Little Girl

This morning, Elizabeth was a baby.

Then I took her to a salon, and had her hair cut for the first time. Yes, the first time. So I'm a bit of a procrastinator, so what.




Then we went to the playground with her boyfriend Cal, and then a celebratory lunch at the pub. I think she looks like such a big girl now!!

There's no going back, world. Elizabeth is a little girl. Get ready.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter Sunday in Lonkers: Photos, Photos, Photos

We wanted to go into London sometime this weekend, because there was a display of big, decorative Easter eggs in Covent Garden Market. So yesterday, we miraculously were up and out the door in time to catch a train at 9:32!! That is pretty amazing - especially considering the ride to the station is about 25 minutes, and Matthew does it with a stroller strapped to his back. We brought rain gear with us, since the forecast was gloomy - and since we were prepared for it, it didn't rain at all!

One of the best parts about going to London with Matthew is that he brings his camera, so there are (a) one million photos, and (b) they are all good. That one was clearly taken with my phone, and is the only bad photo in this entire post. That is my Easter gift to you.

We had a really lovely, lovely day in town. Normally I get stressed out just being in London, but I was totally relaxed all day, and just had fun with my little family.

We saw the eggs:

We 'appreciated' the eggs:

We appreciated the eggs a lot:

We did the required 'photo-swap' with another couple of tourists:

We waited while Matthew took some really cool photos of eggs:

And then we had a break for "someone" to run after pigeons:

While Elizabeth had a little snooze, we had a pub lunch and then walked towards St. James's park. Eliz woke up just as we were getting to the park, and then we fed the ducks and geese and the Queen's swans. Check it out: one of the Queen's ducks has a blue beak!!! (I don't know if the ducks are technically "Hers" but whatever, she owns mostly everything in England, right?)

Matthew took some more great photos of us and Lonkers in the springtime:

Then we made our way down to Buckingham Palace - we knew Liz and Phil were there, because the Union Jack was flying high, but I guess they were having their Easter lunch because they didn't come out to see us... we waited for awhile, but I guess they wanted some family time too. Fair enough.

I tried my hand at taking nice pictures:

And then got this great shot of my two favourite people in a pretty great location:

We went through Canada Gate into Green Park, and then decided we'd have a 'less-is-more' kind of day. It is always a tricky decision - you can either squeeze another activity in, and risk toddler meltdown but feel like you got "more" out of your day, or  you can get out while you're ahead, and head home earlier but happier. It's taken us awhile, but with a toddler, inevitably, less really is more. Back home to Cambreej for the Hawkeyes!
Happy Easter!

Friday, 6 April 2012

A Cambreejian Sort of Day

This morning, Matthew & I felt like the vultures from Jungle Book. 

 This is day one of FOUR (!!) Daddy days, and we have no plans at all for the long Easter weekend. This can either be very freeing or very boring. Luckily, our neighbours Anggi & Dippo told us they were taking their daughter Bianca to an Easter party at their church this morning. Woot! We were instantly energized, and were showered, dressed & ready to go in 30 minutes. Nothing like motivation!

They go to Holy Trinity Church, right by the Market square. It's still pretty fun to go into a church that looks like this - it's easy to forget we live in a city with an active church that's over 800 years old. Our country is only 145 years old . . . Canada is such a baby. 

We helped Elizabeth make an Easter card, sang songs (she was mesmerized by the guitar) and learned a lesson about grace. I kind of lost the thread of the lesson, but in the end a leader had to put his feet in a bucket of baked beans - whether or not anything is retained by the children doesn't matter: they saw a dude stand in a bucket of beans. And that is really what Easter is about.

Then there was an Easter Egg Hunt, in the gardens of Sidney Sussex college. Elizabeth's first Easter Egg Hunt was in this completely picturesque English garden:

There was a lot of searching:

And a lot of finding eggs:

And a lot of running around and then being distracted:

After the hunt, we all went for lunch at our fave place. Everyone loves Wagamama's, right? On the way home, as predicted & expected, Elizabeth fell asleep on Matthew's bike. I took that opportunity to run into the Co-op for the necessities: milk, yogurt, beer and wine. This is why bike baskets were invented:

Now, time for a drink before she wakes up! Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

I'm Just Being Honest Here.

I know that Elizabeth is not yet two. I know she's a toddler, and loud, and noisy, and physically cannot be calm and quiet on command. And yet, I thought it was a good idea to take her to a museum.

The Fitzwilliam Museum "houses world-class collections of works of art and antiquities spanning centuries and civilisations." It is also free and open on rainy days, and has a program called FitzKids which implies a certain kid-friendliness. We went with my pal Kate, and her son Cal (aka Elizabeth's boyfriend), as well as my friend Nikki. 3 adults to 2 toddlers + 1 infant is a not-bad ratio. We picked up a FitzKids package on our way in - we were meant to get to this specific room, read the storybook provided (Quentin Blake's 'Cockatoos') and then look for all the cockatoos in this room. Great! A preset activity!! We set off for the Cockatoo Room.

At first, it was all lovely and adorable, as Eliz and Cal threw themselves at each other in a falling-down hug, and then tickled and giggled for about 5 minutes. They both enjoyed the armoury, since there was a lifesize horse replica in armour - pretty awesome, when you're only a couple feet tall. Then they discovered the marble staircase, so we went up & down, and up & down, etc etc for about 20 minutes.
Heading back to the staircase after we distracted them for 0.4 seconds by pointing out a massive owl statue.
 The biggest challenge was the room with antique chairs - these chairs were not in cases, they simply had signs on them saying, "PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH"... it was super difficult to explain to a toddler that you can't sit on those chairs, but you can sit on these chairs in the middle of the room and look at those chairs. It was interesting that neither of them tried to touch the horse in armour, but they were all over these chairs. I guess you're not allowed to touch a real-life horse, but chairs are usually meant for sitting. Life is confusing when you're two.  We also sang a few renditions of "Hickory Dickory Dock" when we saw a collection of grandfather clocks.

We were in that room, just about to get to cockatoo-land, when a museum staff member asked us to stop the children from running and to keep them quiet.


That went over like a lead balloon with me. I thought they were being quiet - they were hickory-dickory-docking with me. And toddlers don't walk - they only run. I just don't get it - why do you have programs meant for preschoolers, and then expect preschoolers to behave like adults? If you want to be a museum meant for only adults, don't offer things like activities based around picture books. As well, all of the patrons of the museum were smiling and laughing at the two kids - most of them were grandparentish, and a few said things like, "Aren't they lovely??" because, really, two little ones playing and laughing and pointing at objets d'art together really is lovely.

So we corralled the children to the elevator and banished ourselves to the basement. Guess what was in the basement? Nothing. Just white walls with grubby handprints all over them - looked like we weren't the first group to be banished. We sat down on the floor, handed out snacks, and read our Cockatoo book. Look how happy they are!! It wasn't like they were making sad noises, or whiny noises - they were genuinely happy children!

Then we decided to risk it, and go directly to the cockatoo room. We are so brave.
 It was a big success! Imagine the adults saying, "Ooooh, there's a cockatoo!!" followed by two children running to the case and pointing and saying, "burrrdie!!!" or "cheep cheep!!" It was pretty wonderful. Also pretty wonderful was a different museum staff member, who helpfully showed us the "secret drawers" in the display cases - then the kidscould open the drawers on their own, and look at the stuff inside and then close the drawer also on their own. "On my own" is a big deal when you're almost two.

So here's the 64 million dollar question: do museums have to be quiet in order for people to appreciate art? Why is that? I'm being genuine here - as someone who doesn't always "get" art, and can look at masterpieces and say, "that's pretty" - is it easier to glean significance and/or meaning from art in quiet surroundings? Or is it just the status quo? Either way, if you don't want the sound or presence of children in your museum, don't advertise yourself as family friendly. Exhibit A: